Recently I found about a great project going on in the western Indian city of Ahmadabad by an AirTreks client leaving for his trip: a truly one-of-a-kind restaurant that gives form to the elusive concept of Service.
From its inception, Seva Café has been on a social mission: to help the local community by promoting good karma in the form of fine dining.
Their restaurant is like none other I’ve heard of, operating inside values that are true to their community while delivering a social service model that other entrepeneurs can adopt. Theirs is to give back rather than to take profit, to help others rather than to simply serve themselves. A novel idea indeed!
The Seva Café is an experiment in kindness.
The word Seva in Sanskrit means “service” and as it suggests, the restaurant is dedicated to the idea. They are not merely giving for the sake of giving, such as any traditional soup kitchen or food bank. These guys are dedicated to the eating-out experience. Their “pay-as-you-wish” motto solicits funding only by donation, and only as much as needed to keep the operation afloat. Any profits are donated back into the community. There are no prices on the menu and no payment is expected when you leave. As people give money on their goodwill, meals are paid for by those that came before you.
According to their website:
“As we serve, we internalize the mantra of “Atithi Devo Bhava” which translates to “The Guest is God,” a deep and ancient Indian view that honors each guest with reverence.
When you dine at Seva Café, you are not viewed as a customer, but instead as our treasured guest, as part of our family.”
The clientele is varied, coming from all castes and walks of life: those in a positional to give, those that can pay with small change and good karma and those that can’t afford to pay. In this way money takes on a cycle of “giving in motion” so to speak.
Run and maintained completely by volunteers, the staff seems to be a pretty a happy bunch, empowered by the knowledge that what they’re doing is of vital importance in a capitalistic and self-centered world. The idea of selfless service creates not only an altruistic environment but one of good nature and lightheartedness and can be seen to those that visit.
There is a gallery space as well that helps promote local art and culture and much of time the café is packed with diners.
The Seva Café (or its idea) has spread to at least one other location in the world, this time in the US.
It can be found at Zephyr Vegetarian Restaurant in Long Beach, California, when every week their management adapts the Seva Café ideal and turns over the tables to the pay-as-you-wish mantra. It is currently their most successful day of the week.
If your itinerary has you passing through Ahmadabad (or close to it) stop in and say hi. You will undoubtedly be enamored by the charm of the folks operating this amazing restaurant. If you’re not quite getting there why not make a side trip? You might be pleasantly surprised by this ancient Indian city of the Gujarat state. Ahmadabad is not as visited as the more common cities on an India itinerary but its off-the-beaten-path nature usually makes for warmer welcomes by the locals. The Indian people are just like that.
Go ahead, plan out a trip with this great stop in an itinerary.